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Deterring and Discussing Plagiarism

In this digital age, information and images are easier to copy than ever before and our students' critical thinking skills are being compromised. Education Week published results from a study that concluded 54% of students admitted to plagiarizing off the Internet. At a study revealed that 47% of students believed teachers "sometimes choose to ignore students who are cheating.” Below are some tips to help deter students from plagiarizing and to discuss it if they have.

The Academy’s policy on plagiarism: (You can find the full text on Academic Honesty here.)

“All art and design work, and all written work, must be the original work of the student. Any quotations, paraphrases, or direct appropriation of imagery or ideas from source material must be properly cited according to university, departmental, and/or instructor policy. Any student who plagiarizes will receive a grade of “F” for that assignment, with no opportunity to do the assignment again. All plagiarism offenses will be reported to the department director and the Education Office. Plagiarism is a violation of the Academy’s Academic Honesty Policy and may be grounds for suspension or dismissal from the Academy. This policy constitutes an official warning to each student.”

To reduce the likelihood of academic dishonesty with your students, consider using these proactive strategies:

  • Take time to go over The Academy’s plagiarism policy and talk with your students about the seriousness of plagiarism. Discuss grading consequences of plagiarizing work. 
  • Clearly communicate project goals and grading criteria. 
  • Set up assignments so that you can see the students' process of creation and check in on their progress at several stages. Be sure to see something concrete in advance, especially if the project is big or particularly complex. 
  • Require students to submit drafts, thumbnails, sketches, reflective process journals (i.e. a short reflective piece of writing detailing their creative process), digital photos of their work at various stages, or other evidence of their process with their final projects. Don’t allow students to change their topic late in the semester. 
  • Use some class time to work on projects so you can see original student work. 
  • Direct students to the Academy's Online Writing Lab (OWL). It has good tips for students on how to avoid plagiarizing. 

Once you have received students' work and you suspect plagiarism, it's your responsibility to talk with the student. Here are strategies to help prepare for your discussion:

  • Familiarize yourself with The Academy’s policy on plagiarism
  • Do your research to confirm, as best as you can, that the work is plagiarized. 
  • Inform your Director that you suspect plagiarism and that you are contacting the student. 
  • Take time to predict how the student might react when confronted. Be prepared for a variety of reactions. 
  • Meet with the student in private and begin your conversation with these phrases:

“I'm confused about why some parts of this project are done so well while others aren't. Can you explain?”

“This final submission is very different from previous versions I've seen. Can you explain why there is such a great difference?”

“I was surprised by your final project, so I did some investigation. Before I tell you what I found out, is there anything you'd like to tell me?”

  • If it becomes clear in the course of discussion that the student has plagiarized, the student should fail the assignment, but not necessarily the class. 
  • Follow up with a general announcement to the class that plagiarism will not be tolerated. If a student is caught plagiarizing multiple times in a course, he will fail the course. If a student is caught plagiarizing in more than one course, he/she may be expelled from school. 
  • Sometimes the student will adamantly deny plagiarizing. Despite your strong suspicions, you cannot fail him based on your suspicions only. However, let your director be aware of the situation so that should it occur again or in another class, there will be a history of the issue.

Plagiarism and writing

The Academy's Online Writing Lab (OWL) has good tips for students on how to avoid plagiarizing:

Purdue University Online Writing Lab:

Plagiarism and artwork

Do you have students who need a little extra help? Are you concerned about their progress in your class? Refer them to the ARC by using the online referral form


Stricherz, M. (2001). "Many Teachers Ignore Cheating, Survey Finds," in Education Week.